Off-Hand Shooting

The Silent and Brave revision page #116

This rifle has got me excited. Also, what I am excited about is dovetailing neatly with my novel and my sniper character Riika, so that is also really cool.

I have mentioned that when I went to the range on Thursday morning, I tried shooting prone. Now, I don’t know much about shooting at all. I knew that the position is difficult, but also that it is the first one a rifleman needs to learn, especially one, like me, who is interested in off-hand shooting. Off-hand shooting is not shooting with your off hand (that is, your non-dominant hand.) Off-hand shooting is shooting without the benefit of a stabilizing rest, like a bipod, or sand bags, or a giant metal rifle stand that does all the work for you. Those implements are great for accuracy, but  not for practicality. It is very hard to find a Caldwell Lead Sled in the field. Generally, you want to find something to rest the barrel of the rifle on, a tree or a wall, but if you can’t, then you have to shoot off-hand, standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down, using your body for stability and to absorb recoil.

So I tried prone. For a novice, I think I got the position pretty well set. Rifle snugged up in the meat of the shoulder, left elbow braced against the ground perpendicular and at a forty degree angle or so (I read that higher is better), right elbow set on the ground as a brace for the trigger hand, cheek on the stock, scope on the target at my natural point of aim. This is the steadiest you can get with a rifle without mechanical support. I do use a ching sling, but I didn’t wear it on Thursday because I thought it would just get in the way. Having read a little more, it seems that I should use it to snug everything up and help support the weight of the rifle. I put the target at 200 yards, which is a long shot off-hand.

My first shot hit the target. Not in the bullseye, not even in the ten ring. All the way out on the very edge of the nine ring. Still, I hit the target. I was very proud, and considered it a lucky shot. You can see it. It’s the top hole in the photo, 5 inches off the bull, still an effective shot.


What happens is, as you’re trying to hold the rifle steady on the bullseye, it wanders all over the place. So you kind of have to take a guess when it will be in the right place and pull the trigger. I took five more shots and missed them all completely, but I was okay with that. I was still sighting in the rifle and practicing the position; my main goal was (and still is) to learn about recoil with larger rounds, and make sure I don’t develop a flinch. I could tell that my muscles were getting tired.

I came home and learned some more about off-hand shooting. This is how it’s done.

First, understand that the crosshairs are going to wander, so make that part of the shot. Instead of getting to my natural point of aim and then trying to hold it there and squeeze off a lucky one, what I need to do is control the wander. In other words, get set in a stable position quickly and comfortably with the sights on the target. Then, before the muscles have a chance to get too tired, guide the crosshairs down to the bullseye with a steady motion, approaching from 11 o’clock, or down and towards the strong side of my body. As the crosshairs intersect with the bullseye, squeeze off the shot. The practice is in the comfortable, repeatable position and the squeezing of the trigger. The whole process should not take more than a few seconds, so that the muscles don’t have time to fatigue. In fact, even with a seven pound rifle, if I line up the crosshairs and then see the sights start to waver out of control, it’s already too late.

That makes a lot more sense to me, and now I can’t wait to get back to the range and continue to work on my off-hand shooting. Also, I can’t wait to write about it while Riika is learning it too. I love it when real life and my fantasy world intersect, and I love learning more about shooting.


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